My dear body, it’s been a while since I stopped paying attention to your existence. It is strange, you must be thinking, since you fall into an accepted framework of attractiveness: you are slim, fit and pretty. There is no reason to be ashamed of you or to neglect you, but that’s exactly what I was doing. Year after year, I was trying to forget that you are mine, that you are, actually, me. I saw the world as if through a helmet of a spacesuit, as if between me and my skin was a no-man’s-land of black nothingness; as if my body was just a carapace, hiding a shiny ball of my spirit.
As a child, I’ve heard someone saying from the pulpit of a village church: a body is dust. A preacher cited from the Bible profusely and the quotes flew at me, like stones. That was the day I decided that my body wasn’t the best idea for further investment. That should have had to be the spirit; and all those beautiful psalms on the beauty of a body fell, unfortunately, on my deaf ears. I stopped wondering at you, my dear body; there was only contempt that was left.
You grew up; I got interested in experiments with nutrition and all kinds of physical exercises, including fencing, dancing, horseback riding, trekking, qigong, yoga and tai-qi. One would think that physical activities emphasize a feeling of presence in one’s body and awareness of its existence, but I did them with a totally different purpose – to find a deeper, spiritual essence in every one of them and make you, my body, disappear.
And you almost did disappear. I stopped getting pleasure out of your graceful movements; I stopped getting pleasure out of treating you to tasty food, of dressing you up in beautiful clothes and making you up with different colors and shades. I stopped pampering and caressing you. I stopped wondering at the beauty and ugliness around me, got myself locked up in a glass cage, until you started to wail and cry in complaint. You got so sick that I could no longer do anything of those things I loved so much. Thankfully your complaints drew my attention back to you, without whom the spirit feels lonely and hardly all right.
It happened on a train, in a metro station. I looked at people’s eyes, at bodies of different shapes, at clothes of different texture, and all of a sudden, a person next to me was not hiding inside a body, like a walnut seed in its shell, intangible, but was right here, on the surface and rather tangible, a spirit manifested in flesh and blood.
Just look how happiness, gloom and sorrow show up through one’s eyes, how troubles mark one’s forehead, how a smile shapes the form of one’s lips, how one’s mood makes an imprint on one’s choice of clothes, and how one’s work bends or straightens one’s back! You could read the whole life story on a person’s body, on that “shell of dust”.
The void of a no-man’s-land inside me got filled with “me” to the brim of my skin. I felt every movement of my body with an intensity that I have never felt. What a pleasure it was to make a step and sense the firmness of the ground beneath the sole of my shoe so distinctly, to catch a glance of a passer-by and give back a smile. I was not alone anymore, an astronaut in my spacesuit, I was touching the world around me with my skin, breathing it in, tasting it, rich and raw. A person beside me was not an extra-terrestrial of some kind but a being like me, a quint-essence of emotions, sensations, thoughts, experiences and hopes in one form, the form I could touch.
What a joy it was to see the multitude of living worlds walking past me, waiting for their trains, eating, drinking, reading, listening to music, chatting, thinking, kissing, dreaming, desiring, creating, and discovering something, at one and the same time. All I had to do to get our worlds closer was to look into their eyes, and stretch my hand in a greeting.
All of it thanks to you, my dear body.